Beware, This article has spoilers about the Last Jedi
The Last Jedi continues the story of what happens in the epic Star Wars tale. Who would have thought it has leadership and workplace communication lessons as well?
The Last Jedi opens to a scene where the impulsive, driven, and stubborn Resistance pilot Poe Dameron goes rogue on General Leia Organa. He ignores her order to return to the ship and takes a rare opportunity to attack an enormous and deadly First Order battleship. They bring it down, but pay dearly by losing all of their bombers and a talented and dedicated team of pilots. General Organa greets Dameron with a slap and a demotion, telling him that “there were no leaders” on that mission. His victory came at too great a cost. But the punishment doesn’t seem to have an impact on him. Later on he shrugs off the demotion and appears unmoved.
Dameron, at least at the beginning of the film, is too wrapped up in himself to see how his actions are part of the rebellion’s larger mission. He goes for immediate gratification, while General Organa understands the power of strategy and playing for the end game.
Then, General Organa is "out of the office" while recovering from, let’s call it an unexpected space flight, and replaced by Vice Admiral Holdo. Dameron is doubtful of Holdo’s abilities and immediately asks to know her plans. He acts as if he should have special access to the command. She reacts strongly, and negatively, by putting the cocky pilot in his place and telling him to back off and wait for his orders. This results in misplaced efforts, secrets, and mutiny.
Sound familiar? Ok, you may not be fighting the First Order at work (even though it can feel that way), but you’ve probably dealt with some of the following:
We’ve all had times when we incredulously ask “What?!” when given a new task. But, you don’t want to come across as arrogant. Once I asked someone who worked for me to help with an urgent project and she responded, “I can do it, but this is taking me away from my important work.” I had to calmly explain that this new project was important work and went into more detail about the backstory of how it came up and why we needed to do it. She followed through, but her response raised some red flags for me. She sincerely believed she was being a team-player by voicing her concern about not working on what she thought was most important. She unknowingly came off as selfish and dismissive of my request. Not the team player I could trust.
Dameron had similar thoughts at the beginning of the movie. He assumes his leaders are too narrow-minded to appreciate his vision. He literally turns off all communications so he doesn’t have to hear Organa’s orders.
Later on, Dameron secretly assumes authority, builds up his own coalition of colleagues, and leads a mutiny, with disastrous results, when vetting his ideas with his leaders could have saved lives.
This one's a doozy. It’s easy to justify doing something that you think will have a payoff even though it may not fit into your boss’ or company’s long-term plan. Yet, a good leader will know to hold back and cut losses and can see how small actions fit into the larger plan. Steve Jobs said that “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” The person who famously decided to release “New Coke” went for the immediate result instead of considering how it would fit in with the values and mission of the company.
The key is finding the right balance between creativity and long-term thinking. The way to achieve that balance is with communication. It goes both ways, with leadership needing to instill the long-term vision while encouraging innovation. Employees need to feel comfortable asking questions and encouraged to offer their ideas, but respect lines of authority.
Dameron’s impulsiveness doesn’t fit in with the the long term plans for the rebellion. He might have taken down a huge battleship, but the rebellion force was decimated in the process.
Princess Leia fans might be angry at me for this one, but I was disappointed with how she handled Dameron. Even though she gave him a demotion, her explanation of his poor decisions didn’t make it through to him. (I mean, many people died because of it!) She could have used different language to explain how this was catastrophic. Or, maybe said he was grounded from flying until further notice. If anyone else had ignored her orders, perhaps someone she didn’t like as much, would they have been treated the same way?
Consider if General Organa came down harder on Dameron and didn’t tolerate Dameron’s impulsive antics. Even though she gives him a demotion, he almost laughs it off. Beneath her anger she almost seems to wink at him like a mother exasperated with her mischievous but charming kid.
A lack of fairness from their bosses is a complaint I hear over and over from clients. It creates a toxic work environment and leads to job dissatisfaction and concerns about favoritism.
I once was part of a team that had the chance to meet with prospective new managers for our group. When asked “How would you describe your management style?” one candidate said, “I rule with an iron fist in a velvet glove.” She likely thought this response showed her strength and leadership, instead it terrified all of us and suggested that she would keep us all in place. There was no way we wanted to work for her.
In the Last Jedi, Holdo should have assumed the best of the crew and heard Dameron out instead of treating him with disdain. He did approach her immediately and ask for her plans but she silences him. Rather than cluing in the staff on what she is up to, she gives no glimpse into her strategy and demands them to blindly follow. He has no reason to think he can share his ideas with her.
A lack of trust, contempt, and poor communication are a lethal combination in any workplace, and it’s a two-way street. Moving past our own egos and trusting your colleagues and bosses almost always results in a better outcome.
In the end, Dameron finally learns his lesson. He orders troops to pull back from a battle where the immediate victory wouldn’t be worth the long-term consequences. He becomes a true leader. But, it was a painful, costly lesson.
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I met with a new client who’s trying to figure out her next steps and is unsure of how to take action. She wants to discover the best career fit for her, and hopes that by next Spring she will be happily situated in a fabulous, just-right-for-her job that supports her career strategy and life.
We discussed the steps we could take together to work towards identifying her perfect career fit and launching a targeted job search. But, her days are jam-packed right now, both professionally and personally, and she’s worried about dedicating time to the self-reflective process of finding the right career fit. Instead, she suggested that we start by working on her resume and LinkedIn profile now, and then do the deep dive later.
I cautioned against this approach. It's like building a house without a blueprint. The resume and LinkedIn profile revisions should come at the end of the process. They are tools to help her get to where she wants, and need to be targeted to her dream job. She has to know the desired end point before working on the tools that will help her get there.
We all have this tendency to do what seems “easiest” or most tangible, even though it usually yields the worst results. To get past this, don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking of the everything you have to do. Make it manageable by taking it one step at a time.
Break down the different steps you need to take. For example, one of the first things in finding the right career fit is to identify what you do and don't want. What makes you happy? What does an ideal day look like? What frustrates you the most at work and what do you love the best?
You may be putting pressure on yourself thinking this means that you have to just "know" all these answers immediately. That assumption is overwhelming! Instead, consider doable next steps to help identify what you do and don't want in a job.
Actions you can take may include: taking assessments such as the Myers Briggs or, my favorite, the CliftonStrengths assessment (previously called the StrengthsFinder), monitoring when you feel happiest or the most miserable at your current job, and answering questions about your ideal workday. Each of these steps gives you information that you can use to gain perspective about yourself and formulate a vision for the type of environment and job where you will be satisfied and happy. By checking off one step at a time, you're calmly taking action and working towards your goal.
Break through the inertia and start! You’ll be much less stressed out just knowing that you are doing something instead of worrying and wondering what to do next. It’s time to get excited about your next steps, make a plan, and move yourself forward. Start the New Year off with a bang and take action.
If you’d like someone to hold you accountable through this process, or aren't sure of how to start, just reach out to me or another career coach.
“I’m so excited about the future,” my friend said to me with such passion that I could feel the joy radiating from her. She was devising a career strategy to pivot down a new career path.
Are you excited about your future?
Or, do you feel trapped in your job and unsure of what to do?
You have more control than you think. Once you actively plan your career strategy, you’ll be amazed at how empowered and invigorated you feel.
One of the first steps in making a career strategy is to identify your long-term and short-term goals. They can be as big or a modest as you like. They may range from changing careers, finding a job that will let you travel the globe, relocating to another city, gaining a promotion, working on different projects at your company, or becoming an expert in a particular subject. Once you envision your future and get clear on long-term goals, you can plan out short-term goals that will help you along the way.
A good starting point is to ask yourself the following questions:
Yes, this type of introspection takes a great deal of work. Yet you owe it to yourself to do it.
Treat your future and happiness with the same kind of dedication that you show towards anything else that is important to you. If you’d like someone to hold you accountable through this process, just reach out to me or another career coach.
Take heart that you can do this. The key is to start! Once you have a plan, just imagine how excited you will be about your future.